May 30, 2019
Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Image
The Chi creator and executive producer Lena Waithe is finally opening up about the allegations against Jason Mitchell, the 32-year-old actor fired from the hit series over allegations of misconduct from several actresses on set, including Tiffany Boone, who plays his on-screen girlfriend.
Waithe, who’s been out in front of the #MeToo and #MuteRKelly movements received tons of criticism online after reports from the show’s Showrunner Ayanna Floyd (who also quit due to Mitchell’s behavior) surfaced the Emmy winner knew about the allegations after season one wrapped. The Showtime drama was just greenlit for a third season earlier this year.
Although it may not be 100% within her control – I find it odd as a Black Woman Lena Waithe as the creator/EP of The Chi could not have been privy to Tiffany Boone’s complaints as a fellow black woman…
— Evan L. (@evanludaway) May 21, 2019
I hope Tiffany Boone sues the pants off Showtime and all the folks responsible for the abuse she had to endure while working on The Chi. And I expect @TIMESUPNOW to back her up.
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) May 29, 2019
Lena Waithe had time to make out with Halle Berry but not address the alleged harrassment that happened on set of the Chi?
— Comorienne ?? (@_ShamGod) May 23, 2019
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “A source with knowledge of the Showtime series says Tiffany Boone, who played Mitchell’s girlfriend on The Chi, was among several actresses on the series who had issues with Mitchell. She made repeated complaints of sexual harassment and allegedly felt so unsafe with her co-star that at times her fiance, Dear White People actor Marque Richardson, came to set when she shot scenes with him. Boone declined to comment. Other actresses on the series also were said to have had problems with Mitchell.”
Thursday morning Waithe talked to The Breakfast Club and admitted she should’ve handled things differently.
“Season 1 of The Chi, that was shot maybe three years ago, before people really knew who I was. I was one of those powerless women of color in this industry…I didn’t have a whole ton of power or a lot of say. And now, I have a really strong relationship with the studio and the network, but it was just kind of how things go. For your first thing, you are almost an employee on your own thing. I wasn’t made aware of anything going on with Tiffany until after the season had wrapped. When Tiffany and I had a conversation…I remember looking at her and I was like, ‘Yo, this is not cool, I feel awful that you had an experience on my set that was not pleasant.’ And by that point, after the season wrapped, I had a little bit more power and clout and said here’s what I’m going to do to change that. I’m going to hire a woman of color as the showrunner. The first season it was a white male, the second season was a Black woman. That was in direct reaction to what I heard about what was going on, on the show. I can already say the idea of me hearing about something and not doing anything is simply not true, because Ayanna’s hiring was a direct reflection of me trying to change the attitude and environment on that set.”
When Charlamagne directly asked Waithe whether or not she knew about Mitchell’s alleged behavior after Season 1, she said in part, “So what happened was, that was handled. There were conversations that were had, you know, HR was made aware and all the parties involved were like, this thing has been resolved enough so that both parties were willing to return to work. So I was like OK, if you wanna come back I wanna make sure that the environment is different. I made sure that when she came back to set, there was damn near a whole different crew. And also too, there were precautions that we took. The writers had extensive sexual harassment training. There was extensive sexual harassment training on the set. And also I said I was going to put women in positions of power on the show. I think that if that’s the case, it’ll be less likely that we have issues like that again. Not to say that women are exempt from doing things, but I was like I think it’ll make it a safer environment. That was my assumption. And when we get into Season 2, things are moving smoothly. I’m hearing the set is completely different…and then I get a call from Ayanna saying things are persisting in that area. She said to me, you can’t reach out to anybody, you have to sit tight and HR has to handle it. My biggest regret is I wish I would have not trusted anyone to do my job and just reached out to Tiffany on my own and ask what I can do to fix it. I trusted someone else to do my job and the truth is, can’t nobody do my job like me. I’m very blunt, I’m a chick from Chicago and I don’t play. I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus, but I wish that I could have handled the situation differently and I wish I would have done more. That’s my issue when things come out, people don’t own their s–t. I’m going to own my part in it. I know what that’s like to feel powerless. For anyone to assume that I would stand by while a woman is being mistreated…it’s just not true and not who I am. I would not let something bad happen to somebody, knowingly. I was trying to put people in positions of power to change that. But ultimately, that wasn’t the answer. I’m always the answer. Lena is the answer. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in all of this.”
You can listen to the entire interview here. And for fans of the show Mitchell’s role who was also let go from his agent and manager in addition to losing his gig in an upcoming Netflix film, Desperados, will not be recast.
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